Of all the cathedrals in the world, probably the most stunning—and certainly the most unusual—is in Barcelona, Spain. It is a feast for the eyes, leaving viewers salivating for more, as if that were possible.
The cathedral is La Sagrada Familia (“The Sacred Family”). The principal artist/architect was the Spaniard Antoni Gaudi, known for his brilliant sixth sense of engineering ingenuity, unrestrained creativity, and architectural poetry–all on a gigantic scale. Construction began in 1882 and continues to this day, following the vision of the late Gaudi.
Gaudi understood architecture to be fundamentally about inspiration, and in the case of the cathedral, to inspire those who laid eyes on it both to meditate on God and his sacred family and to ascend upward in piety and devotion.
The geometry of La Sagrada Familia is at once free-flowing, parabolic, pliable, even prismatic. When completed, each of the twelve apostles and their unique roles will be represented by a spire reaching upward, seemingly to the heavens. Yet the cathedral communicates unity, as the disparate pieces fit together perfectly in sacred dance.
La Sagrada Familia, though amazing, is merely an earthly cathedral. Actually, there is another cathedral even more amazing. It’s a heavenly one, but it too is presently on earth. It’s not a building or an institution, but a living, breathing organism. It too is a sacred family, designed by the divine artist/architect. It’s also under construction and has been for 2,000 years.
When Jesus departed this earth at a very young age, after only three years of ministry, he left his followers in the hands of his followers (that’s not a typo). It’s true, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not far away, and their power and presence are vital. But the community of believers is designed to work together as its own organism, with each part helping the whole to function like a family, or to use Paul’s favorite metaphor, like a human body (1 Cor 12:12-26).
This family is not supposed to be a random bunch of believers, loosely linked together, with some members uninvolved, some uncooperative, some unwilling to set aside personal preferences for the good of the whole, while others act like “infants, tossed back and forth by waves or blown here and there by winds of false teachings” (Eph 4:14). That kind of a building is subject to decay; a body subject to disease; a family subject to dismemberment.
Instead, we, as faithful followers, are the sacred family of God, the personal presence of Christ on earth (his body—Eph 4:12), as well as the temple of the Holy Spirit. “God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:17). We are “humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace . . . the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, growing and building itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:2-3, 16).
Now that’s a stunning though unusual structure, a geometry of true community. It signals unity, as all the disparate pieces work together seamlessly. It’s inspiring, encouraging all to meditate on God and the brilliance of his creativity.
APPLICATION: Are we a random bunch of believers loosely linked together? Or a sacred family?
For a lot of people this week begins four weeks of sports mania. They will be madly switching TV channels for multiple basketball games to keep up with their favorite teams. They’ll be filling out brackets to keep track of the winners and losers—in fact, many of them have filled in charts with their predictions of who will win each game and who will be in the coveted “Sweet Sixteen” and “Final Four.”
For you non-basketball fans this all seems like a gigantic waste of time. (And some employers are wondering where their workers are at certain times of the day.) In light of recent scandals in college athletics, we might wonder about the relative importance of following sports to the extent that many do. The unreasonable attention and enormous amounts of money involved illustrate clearly the questionable sense of values demonstrated by the fans (popular euphemism for fanatics).
To be clear, this writer enjoys basketball and will spend some time in the next four weeks watching the games. And we recognize that in spite of its misuse by some, there are certain values in athletic completion. Teamwork, perhaps, is the first value to be noted. It takes five athletes at a time to field a basketball team, accompanied by six or eight players ready to substitute at any time. (And look at the number of assistant coaches on the bench, too!) Most teams have a particular player who is often the star, the go-to guy. But, even he or she couldn’t play the game alone. There is always a diversity of talent on the team; some are great ball-handlers; others can rebound amazingly; a few are great shooters; and even fewer may be outstanding at playing defense.
Well, enough about basketball. The Apostle Paul occasionally made references to sports in the New Testament, but the Holy Spirit inspired him to use a stronger metaphor than sports to describe the unity and diversity of his “team,” the church. Read our passage for today, and you will note the variety of illustrations from the body: the eye, the hand, the feet, weaker parts, more honorable parts. Consider these important lessons about the church, the body of Christ, from this passage.
In practical terms, there is a vital point to be made from the sports and body metaphors. Whether in basketball or anatomy, both depend upon unity to achieve any significant purpose. Likewise, each depends as well on its diversity for a cooperative accomplishment enabled by the great variety of its makeup. Note the emphasis on diversity in verse 14 and on unity in verse 20.
March 19, 2019
“Little is much when God is in it,
Labor not for wealth or fame;
There’s a crown and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ name.”
Living lives of expectancy, blanketed with prayer, love and using our God given gifts is our mission as Christ followers. How can our lives exemplify this? Kittie L. Suffield exemplified this lifestyle. Kittie Suffield, the composer of Littleis Much When God is in it, met her spouse, Fred, when he rescued her and other passengers from a stalled train in a blizzard. Providentially, Kittie and Fred went to A.J. Shea’s church in Ottawa where they gave their lives to Christ and eventually became involved in evangelistic ministry. One summer, they met Shea’s son George Beverly. He was ready to quit singing but Kittie wouldn’t allow him to give up. The song,Little is Much When God is in it, was the theme of Kittie’s life and she used it to influence George Beverly Shea. Fred Suffield’s quick response in a blizzard, attendance at a church in Ottawa, musical encouragement, writing lyrics all seem like small acts separately, but orchestrated by God they bring glory to Him.
In I Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised…” George Beverly Shea and the Suffields took their little and offered it to God and He made it much and received the praise.
I often feel like the gifts that I perceive I might have are very miniscule. When all I have to offer to a hurting friend are my prayers, it seems like a weak offering in the face of their deep pain. I see others who are more educated, more influential, more spiritually mature and I wonder how or even why God would want to use me. Then God reminds me about a lunch that fed a bunch.
In each of the gospels we read about Jesus feeding the 5,000. Some scholars estimate the crowd size to have exceeded 20,000 people. In this crowd was a little boy whose mom had packed her son a common lunch, 5 biscuit like crackers (loaves) and 2 pickled fish. I find it fascinating that only 1 boy shows up as having a lunch, willing to share it, with confident expectation that Jesus would use his insufficient offering. The disciples didn’t offer any viable solutions. The many adults didn’t form a committee and offer a plan. Just an insignificant boy with the lunch his mom prepared for him.
I Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near, therefore be alert and sober minded, so that you may pray.” Instead of lives of quiet desperation, we need to exchange desperation for expectation. Like the boy, we need to be waiting, with breathless expectation to see what God will do with our offering.
Is your offering, some faithful prayers in the face of the impossible? Is your offering, a meal in your home, or a refuge in a storm? Is your “lunch” that you are offering, filling a slot for nursery staff, being a mentor, or prayer partner? I Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms. The boy had to entrust Andrew with his lunch to take to Jesus. The boy had been watching a compassionate Jesus heal and teach all day. He expected this Jesus to use his miniscule offering. Warren Wiersbe says, “The miracle took place in Jesus’ hands…for whatever we give to Him, He can bless and multiply. We are not the manufacturers, we are only the distributors.”
What is your “lunch” (gift) that you need to bring to Jesus with hopeful expectation? God entrusts us with the gifts, the abilities and the opportunities to use the gifts that we steward; and then He, alone, gets the glory. God equips. God multiplies. God supplies. He only needs obedient, expectant, available Christ followers. In His hands, little is much.
Did it every happen to you? You longed for a special toy for Christmas and, instead, you got a new pair of PJs! The fact that it was what you needed and your parents knew it was more important than another toy didn’t help you feel any better. Now that you’re a little older, what do you think about when you are deciding what to give to family and friends for Christmas or their birthday? Is a Hallmark card sufficient, or should you buy a gift? Do you give a lot of thought to what you’re going to give? For some people, it’s a big chore to decide what to give. Others seem to have the ability to choose just the right gift.
Have you ever stopped to think that God has chosen very carefully to give each of us, his children, exactly the right gift? The Bible tells us that all of God’s children have been given a special gift. We don’t always think clearly about spiritual gifts, listing some as more important than others. When we note that God has led someone to do pastoral or missionary work, we tend to place them in a category a little higher than the rest of us. Perhaps it’s an excuse for our doing a bit less than we ought to as disciple-makers, because we haven’t sensed that special “call.” Let those who are “called,” who are the “gifted ones,” serve in those ministries, we’ll just do our little part unnoticed.
The Apostle Paul certainly puts the kibosh on that kind of thinking. Just read today’s assigned reading. First, note that all of the gifts (the original New Testament language would suggest “grace gifts”) are given by God. They are described in three ways:
Spiritual gifts are also discussed in Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:10-11. Some texts refer to men who are given to the church as ministers. Peter suggests that God’s gifts are in two broad categories: speaking and serving. And it’s important to note that, while we are blessed when we use them, their primary purpose is not for our edification but for the “common good” of the church, and they are “given as the Spirit determines,” 1 Cor. 12:7, 11.
These tips might be helpful as you consider what God has gifted you to do.
Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral work and ballet score, “The Rite of Spring,” premiered on May 29, 1913, at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. But the performance turned out to be scandalous. The musical innovations of dissonant jarring chords, irregular pulsating rhythms, and unpredictable melodies shattered expectations. It threw the first hearers into a furor.
Yet today, “The Rite of Spring” is applauded as one of the most magnificent masterpieces of the twentieth century. Few musical works have had such a powerful influence. (It was in the spring of 1970 that I had the privilege of performing “The Rite of Spring” as part of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, playing the “tenor tuba” part.)
Springtime is indeed a rite of passage, from the vacuous voids of winter to the verdant venues of summer. Temperatures can be unpredictable, winds irregular, thunder and lightning jarring. We long for the first signs of new life—first flowers, first leaves, first rays of summer sun. This rite of passage is an annual event.
The book of Revelation is about a rite of passage as well, from the bitter winter of the present world to an indescribable new world of beauty and perfection. It’s a once and future event. Listening to the book shatters expectations. We hear hoof beats pounding across its pages; we watch as rivers and seas turn to blood; we feel earthquakes as mountains and islands are sent fleeing; we duck as stars fall from the sky; we run from locusts as big as horses with tails as poisonous as scorpions. For those who will experience the judgments of this rite of passage, the book is indeed in a minor key—angular, dissonant, even scandalous.
But the book also brings us to our feet in applause. Now it’s a major key. We listen as heaven’s choirs sing the praises of the one who saves people from every tribe and language; we watch as the largest multitude of saints ever assembled—with people from every nation on earth—wave palm branches and shout, “Salvation belongs only to our God”; we hear the roar of rushing waters and loud peals of thunder from heaven and discover it’s the redeemed from the earth who kept themselves pure, playing their harps and singing a new song; we whet our appetites as the bride-to-be dressed in the finest linen enters the banquet hall and we are summoned to join the celebration. “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
The book of Revelation is full of evocative scenes strategically situated in the midst of a vivid narrative calling all people of the earth to repentance, obedience, perseverance, faithfulness, worship, and witness. There is no solace in the bitter winter of this present world. But there is great hope for the new world order when the eternal spring arrives. “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children” (Rev 21:6-7).
APPLICATION: Need I say more?
“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:10-11
One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is indeed Lord. This verse often serves as a comfort to many but it won’t be for all. Every tongue will confess but they may not confess this side of eternity. Scripture tells us in many different passages that the desire of God’s heart is that no one perish, but all be saved. Is this our desire also? Every person we come in contact with on a daily basis has an eternity waiting for them one way or the other. We don’t have to be out on the mission field to be reaching the lost. Wherever the Lord has planted you there are those who need the Light and Hope you have.
I see people on a daily basis who do not believe but I get into my ruitune of serving them and meeting their needs only to miss the only true need they have. I have challenged myself to look them in the eye and connect an eternal destination with the face I see looking back at me. How would a proper view of eternity, both heaven and hell, change my perspective on outreach? How would it change yours? Would knowing the reality of hell break your heart for the lost? I surely hope it would break mine and change the desires of my heart to match with His. I pray the desire of my heart would always line up with His in that I wish no one to perish but all to be saved.
Can you imagine what it was like to have been in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost? Here’s how it is described in The Messagetranslation of Acts 2:1-13:
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. . . . [When] devout pilgrims from all over the world . . . heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on . . . How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome . . . Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
When these foreigners heard voices speaking their own language, “their heads were spinning”—not just with the miracle of tongues but with the confusion of the strange sounds of other languages. If you had been there and witnessed this scene, you, no doubt, would have been astounded, too.
This event and the subsequent conversion of thousands of hearers as a result of Peter’s preaching was the birth of the church. It was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that he would send the Holy Spirit and was the beginning of the fulfilling of God’s plan that the Gentiles might come to the obedience by faith (Romans 16:26).
In Romans 14:11 Paul recorded the Lord’s promise from Isaiah 45:23, “As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.” And in Philippians 2:10, 11, he includes the same promise: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Paul was looking to the future, but you can’t help but recognize that this future phenomenon had its beginning on the Day of Pentecost. People from all over the known world and speaking distinctly different languages were praising God, which isexactly what will take place in heaven when God calls his people to be with him for eternity. The Apostle John describes it this way: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lord” (Revelation 7:9).
Though the scene in heaven will include multitudes of people from all the nations of the world, there won’t be any confusion there. We can’t even imagine it. . . the singing of praises (perhaps in a variety of languages?), shouts of joy, and voices saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy —but all with a single intent, the worship of God in the presence of the innumerable hosts of angels, created beings, and the redeemed bride of Christ. jbd 3/13/19
My Cousin Gary meant the world to me; he was the big brother I never had. Whenever we got together it was like no time had passed and we picked up where we had left off. As we grew into adults, we seldom saw each other as our paths took us in separate directions. Finally, in our mid-twenties we were able to get together and I was excited to tell Gary about the love of Christ I had found and so desperately wanted him to receive salvation also. After he had listened intently to every word I spoke, he quietly responded, “That’s nice for you, but it’s not what God has in mind for me.”
As youngsters our religious experience was inundated by a small denomination that believed you never talked to anyone outside the church about Jesus or salvation. It wasn’t meant for everyone and if you witnessed you would be trying to save someone yourself or throwing your pearls to the swine. If God wanted them saved; they’d find their way to the doors of the church and that was the only way they would enter Heaven.
Where I had moved with family to Ohio and then to Indiana to study at Grace, Gary grew up on the streets of Baltimore plus did a tour in Viet Nam. On returning, he adopted a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol and hard living. So, because of the what we were taught in our youthful days, Gary was convinced he was not one of God’s elect and was resolved that he would someday die, a lost soul.
Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, his disciples wanted to know what the future held for Israel and God’s chosen people. He made it clear that was wasn’t their concern. But rather after the Holy Spirit came to them, they should go and tell of Him to everyone, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all over the world.
When Paul went to the home of Cornelius, that was unheard of, for a Jew would never step foot in the home of a Gentile. But God revealed to Paul that the time had come to bring the message of our Risen Savior to everyone that they may also partake in the love of God and have a home with Him in eternity. This went against Jewish teaching that they were the only ones promised Heaven. God was opening the door to all. Thus, we are all commanded to tell the world of God’s great love and plan for each of us in the last verse in today’s reading: “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” In doing this, it fulfills prophesies from the Old Testament that the Lord made, such as Isaiah 49:6, where God says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
God the Father first walked with man to instruct in His ways. God the Son, through Jesus Christ then came to teach and bring salvation. God the Holy Spirit is with us now to guide us and help us be a light to an unsaved world. We have been given an incredible gift through the love of our Lord. What better way to show our appreciation than by sharing this truth to all we with whom we come in contact?
Thanks for reading
What comes to mind when you hear the word “missions.” Is it “somewhere, over there?” Or do you think “Across the street and around the world?”
When the Charis Fellowship had a ministry focused on planting churches in America, the ‘tag line’ was, “Because the world is coming to America.” Not only are they coming to America, they are coming to Winona Lake and Warsaw! Men and women from many corners of the globe are living and working right here in our county. Several years ago, Jay Bell challenged us with the startling fact that there were 22 language groups in Kosciusko County. Just image how many there are today!
The Great Commission is given in some form in all four Gospels and Acts. In addition to today’s readings, there are John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” and Acts 1:8, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
As we have learned at WLGBC, the word “nations” in the context of the missionary mandate does not refer to countries or political entities but to people groups. Every nation has a number of ethnic groups living within that country. Our current missionary enterprise around the world targets unreached people groups, those clusters of people who have no easy access to a gospel witness. Some of those groups are not only unreached but they are often overlooked altogether.
We have been reminded again and again that, while it’s a worthy project to send global teammates to distant places to evangelize and disciple unreached people groups, the world has changed in our lifetime—indeed, the world’s populations are coming to us.
The good news is that at WL we are actively pursuing ways to connect with families who have settled here. The ENL program has opened the door to share the Gospel “with the nations” without even leaving town! We Care Warsaw and SPLASH offer the same wonderful opportunity. We look forward to more ways, as Pastor Dave expands his new role in community outreach.
How can we reach out to share the Good News with the nations (people) here? That’s not a question just for the church’s Global Missions Team to consider. It’s one that each of us should ask ourselves every day. Are you living near, working with, or going to school with someone from another nation? Prayerfully consider ways to build a relationship where you can “be my witness” to the nations that God has brought here. jbd 3/11/19
A coach without a team, cannot coach . . .
A counselor without counselees, cannot counsel . . .
A doctor without patients, cannot doctor . . .
A king without subjects, cannot “king” . . .
There are many things in life we can become qualified for . . .
yet the qualifications may be meaningless.
A teacher, if there is no subject or students, cannot teach . . .
A chef, if there is no food to prepare or people to feed, cannot “chef” . . .
A flower-arranger, if there are no flowers, cannot “arrange” . . .
A mason, if there are no bricks, cannot “brick” . . .
Who would wish that on anyone—to have a skill and it be useless, to be a leader and have no one to lead? Especially, to be a king and not have a kingdom? To be “kingless”!
The Bible is the story of the Creator-King, the Lord of Armies, the only “I AM.” It’s clear that He has one overriding desire: To be the King of all the subjects in the world, the King of all kings.
Is He qualified? (Stupid question.) Does He have a kingdom? (He taught us to pray for His kingdom.) How is He doing? (Don’t ask.)
God wants to be acclaimed as King by all people. But actually, unfortunately—going back to the beginning—it wasn’t very long after He created the world and everyone in it, that it became clear He wasn’t going to be the King of His creation, at least not of everyone (with the family of Noah being the exception). Read these verses with tears in God’s eyes:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Gen 6:5-7)
Following that initial disaster and the King’s disappointment, He selected one particular ethnic group and gave them a special opportunity to recognize him as King. How did it work out? Again there are tears in God’s eyes.
It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence. (2 Kings 24:20) The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem—because of the godlessness of God’s Chosen People—was another of the world’s worst disasters. All because the King was not their king. And a king doesn’t like being “kingless.”
Next in the King’s plan was to make the greatest sacrifice of all and send his One-and-only Son to be the King of the Jews. How did it work out? Yet again there are tears in God’s eyes.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matt 23:37-38) As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:41) The Jews were supposed to be “light for the Gentiles” (Isa 49:6), but the light had burned out.
And that brings us to the present age. What is the King’s plan? How is it working? Remarkably, Jesus said his faithful followers would do even greater things than He had done (John 14:12). It’s not clear what all He meant by that, but it most certainly includes pointing people to do what the Lord’s prayer says, to hallow God’s name, to uphold His kingdom, and to do His will.
APPLICATION: Let’s do all we can to make sure our King is not “kingless,” that He is the absolute King of our lives, and that He has the biggest kingdom possible. “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isa 45:22)